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Pantheon – Rome, Italy

The Pantheon of Rome should not be mistaken for the Parthenon of Athens.  The Pantheon is an ancient Roman structure that is now used as a Roman Catholic church in the city of Rome, Italy.


The Pantheon was built for the first time in 27 BC by the Roman Republic in the third term Marcus Vispanius Agrippa's consul.  It was originally designed as a temple of worship for all Roman state gods.  A fire destroyed the entire structure in 80 CE, leading to its reconstruction by   in 125 CE.  Hadrian was a very liberal Emperor who had traveled across the entire Roman Empire learning about other cultures.  In particular, he admired Greek culture the most.  In rebuilding the Pantheon, he strove to remain true to the original plans while adding a new façade with the original inscription of Marcus Vispanius Agrippa's name and rank.

For the next six centuries it was continuously in use as a temple for Roman gods, until 609 CE when the Byzantine Emperor Phocas transferred the building to Pope Boniface IV.  From then on, the Pantheon was a Christian church by the name of the Church of Mary and all the Martyr Saints.


Today, the Pantheon is still used as a Roman Catholic church, making it one of the oldest examples of Greco-Roman architecture that is completely intact and still in use by the populace.  In addition to worship, the Pantheon is also a tomb that is believed to hold the bodies of Raphael, Baldassare Peruzzi, Vittorio Emanuele II, and Umberto I.

The front of the Pantheon represents the classical temple front in Greco-Roman architecture.  There are three ranks of large granite Corinthian columns with a width of eight columns.  Behind the temple front is a large rotunda with an un-reinforced concrete dome.  The dome is truly a masterpiece in Roman concrete engineering.  Modern concrete methods without reinforcing metal bars could not hold such a shape.  It's believed that the Romans used meticulous layering techniques to ensure that the concrete dried uniformly. 

At the top of the dome is a large circular open-air skylight that allows a beam of sunlight to drift around the room throughout the day.  Due to its intact state over the last twenty centuries, the Pantheon has been one of the most influential pieces of Roman architecture ever made.  Its designs have been endlessly copied by European and American architects throughout history.